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Chauvin Verdict Looms As 3 Ex-Officers Face Trial In George Floyd's Death

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been convicted for the murder of George Floyd, prosecutors turn to another trial. Three other former officers were on the scene and face trial this summer. NPR's Adrian Florido reports that Chauvin's conviction complicates their defense.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao are each charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter. Most experts agreed that the case against them would have been dropped if Chauvin had been acquitted. Instead, here's what Attorney General Keith Ellison said last week after Chauvin was convicted on all three counts against him.

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KEITH ELLISON: This is not the end. In the coming weeks, the court will determine sentencing, and later this summer, we expect to present another case. We will not be talking about that.

FLORIDO: The three other officers are set to go on trial together in August. But Chauvin's conviction raises new considerations for lawyers on both sides - for one, says Brock Hunter, a Minneapolis defense attorney, the possibility of a plea deal.

BROCK HUNTER: Not just the fact that the jury came back with convictions on all three counts, but that they did so so quickly and decisively, I think it just shows these - the defense attorneys for the other three officers that they've got a tough case ahead of them.

FLORIDO: At the same time, he says prosecutors shouldn't be too confident in their case against the other officers.

HUNTER: Because they're not the ones who callously put their knee on George Floyd's neck and stayed there. Two of the three officers were rookies, just brand new on the job. Derek Chauvin was their training officer. You know, they were supposed to be learning on the job from him.

FLORIDO: Bodycam video shows that officer Lane, who held down Floyd's legs, twice asked Chauvin if they should move Floyd onto his side. He and officer Kueng were both in their first week on the job. Officer Tou Thao's primary role was to keep bystanders away. Twin Cities attorney Mike Brandt says he'd be surprised if the officers took a deal. For one, their lawyers got to watch Chauvin's prosecution on television - great for tailoring their own defenses.

MIKE BRANDT: It's like you're playing poker and the other opponent has already put their cards on the table.

FLORIDO: There will be other challenges for the prosecution, including trying three officers at once.

BRANDT: They're the ones who's got to round up all the witnesses again. They're the ones who have to put it all together again. So I think there's more pressure on the state the second time around.

FLORIDO: He also says after the Chauvin trial, finding impartial jurors will be hard. Lawyers for the three officers either declined NPR's request for comment or did not respond. Attorney Brock Hunter says whatever the parties in the case are thinking, they all understand the public pressure prosecutors face to hold all the officers accountable for George Floyd's murder.

HUNTER: To the extent that they are willing to enter into plea negotiations, I think they're probably going to be driving a pretty tough bargain.

FLORIDO: Many of the people gathered at the memorial where Floyd was killed on a recent day expressed similar feelings about the three other officers. Samuel Bangura said Chauvin's conviction was just a start.

SAMUEL BANGURA: So I just think we need to stay out here, come out here every day, just to remind people that we didn't forget about the other three, you know? So they need to pursue them to the fullest.

FLORIDO: He said he trusted prosecutors to decide how best to do that. But Perri Redd said she would hate to see a plea bargain.

PERRI REID: Take it to trial. Do it fairly. Don't give them no cuts. Don't give them no shortcuts. For what? I don't think it would be fair.

FLORIDO: Not after what they did to George Floyd, she said.

Adrian Florido, NPR News, Minneapolis.

(SOUNDBITE OF ALFA MIST'S "MULAGO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.